"Captain Blazkowicz. I've heard a lot about you. We have the same name, you and I. Wilhelm, William. But...You call me "Deathshead". I don't like it. I'm a happy man, you see? It doesn't sound right in English. Say it...correctly. Toten...kopf."
―Deathshead in Blazkowicz's flashback.[src]

Oberstgruppenführer Wilhelm "Deathshead" (Totenkopf) Strasse was a leading member of the German Armed Forces, a gifted researcher and doctor who heads the SS Special Projects Division. He is the arch-nemesis of the series' protagonist William J. Blazkowicz.

He is of the few characters brought over from the earlier Activision series games (see Wilhelm Strasse (Classic)) in the MachineGames reboot. He serves as the main antagonist of Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Background[edit | edit source]

The MachineGames series is a reboot of the series inspired by some of the older material, but taking its own direction. Very little of Wolfenstein was utilized as part of plot of Wolfenstein: The New Order.

"...we asked him if the last Activision Wolfenstein game had any baring on their version to which he replied, "No it does not. We try not to include that game as part of our story. Personally, I think that Activision did a crap job."[1].

The new series is known for dropping supernatural aspects in favor of more 'science-fiction' explanation Da'at Yichud. While it does utilize and reference certain characters and ideas from earlier games it reimagines them in some ways or changes the dating of events. But these are done more as a 'soft reboot' of their characters than direct or strict continuity.

Infact RTCW itself was published by Activision and was under their direction and may fall under this criticism (though Old Blood itself makes many nods to the game, but reimagines them) or has new characters inspired by characters in the original game (sharing their names and similar outcomes) but portrayed in a different light. Several sources claim that Old Blood is a a retelling of RTCW's events[2].

In an apparent retcon, BJ mentions he was 32 during events of RTCW (which in the original game was set March, 1943, he was only 31). This means X-Labs events had to have been ret-conned into either after August 11, 1943 or before August 11, 1944. Perhaps even merged with the events of Wolfenstein 2009 adapted into the The New Order.

In another retcon in this time timeline the Normandy occurred in June 1944 but the Allies lost because of Strasse's weapons. In Wolfenstein (Wolf2/2009), which took place c. late 1945 to 1947 the allies have not yet invaded Europe, and its surmised they would have to land by a very long beach (foreshadowing Operation Overlord, but taking place in a very different alternate universe). RTCW multiplayer Beach scenario is based on Normandy, and future preparations for Normandy landings are discussed in the 1942 and 1943 scenarios of Enemy Territory, but Wolf 2 apparently took the series down a different alternate history (while MachineGames at least put that event back in line with real history, but used it as a diverging point in history for its "Dark Alternate Future").

The New Order[edit | edit source]

Wilhelm Strasse in Wolfenstein: The New Order

Strasse returns in Wolfenstein: The New Order. He is the main antagonist in the game and through he managed to introduce several inexplicably advanced technology that was responsible for turning the tide of World War II in the Nazis' favor after plundering a Da'at Yichud safe keep as well as killing its gatekeeper with his troops. Strasse is shown to have been badly scarred since his last appearance, due to the wounds he sustained from the zeppelin crash.[3] There are some changes in the history such as setting X-lab events in later 1943 rather than in March, after B.J. had turned 32, and "Black Sun" and supernatural elements from RTCW and Wolfentein were intentionally ignored by the developers.

c. Late 1943-1944[edit | edit source]

At some point between August 11, 1943 and August 11, 1944 (after B.J's 32nd birthday). Strasse was a gifted devoted researcher, and head of the SS Special Projects Division. At the time, Strasse was working on advanced technology (super soldier prototypes) in the X-labs. B.J. infiltrated the labs through the cesspools, encountered super soldiers[4], and destroyed his research.[5]

During the war, Deathshead had his second encounter with B.J. in this time in Isenstadt. The encounter lead to Hans Grosse shooting Caroline Becker and paralyzing her, after she tried to punch Hans. Deathshead almost perished in a zeppelin crash. Deathshead escaped again. his near death experience gave him a fresh outlook on life, and he loved every minute of it. .

In this time Deathshead's technology helped defeat Allies at Normandy's D-Day landings in June 1944.

1946[edit | edit source]

It would be a couple of years before the OSA would track down Deathshead again, for another attempt destroying his technology.[6][7][8]

Hitler's war machine suddenly gained a tremendous footing in the European theaters by way of extremely advanced technologies, believed to be the handiwork of Strasse himself. Through the intel gained from Helga von Schabbs' documents, the Allied forces and OSA Command have managed to pinpoint the location of and ordered a siege on Deathshead's Baltic compound. Agent Blazkowicz is sent in as a commanding officer, to be in charge of a strike team which, through Deathshead's many machinations, suffers many casualties as they fought their way into the castle. After an accidental fall into an incinerator, Blazkowicz's squad is captured by Deathshead and his Super Soldiers, where he is forced to choose one of his teammates, either Private Probst Wyatt III or Fergus Reid, to sacrifice to the mad doctor's cruel experiments. Deathshead then takes the one chosen by Blazkowicz and vivisects him on the spot before leaving the others to die an agonizing death.

1960[edit | edit source]

""So... Gullible""
―Deatshead to B.J. before his death.[src]

By 1960, Deathshead has become a revered figure within the Reich, and continues to create more advanced weapons and machines. All the while improving some of his much older projects, such as the Super Soldiers and Panzerhunds. At this point, he is one of the most powerful and influential figures in the Nazi regime. Since unlike Hitler, he still maintains both his physical and mental health through the usage of personally developed biotechnology. While Hitler, on the other hand, has transformed into a paranoid elderly man, suffering greatly from bodily and psychological aging.

Deathshead commits suicide with a grenade to kill BJ once and for all.

After the fall of the London Monitor, his forces manage to storm the Kreisau Circle's headquarters, capturing some of their members. Prompting Blazkowicz and the remaining members of the resistance to utilize their captured U-boat and Da'at Yichud technologies to mount a rescue and storm the Baltic fort. At the top of the fort, Deathshead greets his long time nemesis with a disturbing revelation: he had been preserving the brain of the teammate Blazkowicz had him kill years ago. Maintaining his brain in a special device that, when fitted into a Prototype Robot, will grant him a very powerful and intelligent soldier. The robotic menace is unleashed on Blazkowicz, but eventually falls. Irritated, Deathshead hops into an enormous mech and combats B. J. himself. After an intense battle, Blazkowicz manages to defeat Deathshead and fatally stabs him several times in his heart before the mad doctor pulls out a hidden grenade and blows himself up. The blast killed Deathshead, but badly mauled Blazkowicz, who survived and ordered the resistance to fire at the compound with him inside. However, it turns out that B.J. was evacuated before the destruction of the castle.

Legacy[edit | edit source]

Because of his death, the German Army begins to lose its advantage in advanced technology and weaponry since Deathshead is no longer alive to produce them for the Nazis and the fact that his death cripples the entire Research Division of the Nazi Regime.

His suicidal attempt to kill Blazkowicz was pointless as well, as he survived despite receiving heavy injuries. In addition, B.J. continued to aid the Resistance and killed Irene Engel and assassinated all Übercommander's across the United States, disorganizing the Nazis control in America.

However, despite his death, the Nazis still have a firm grasp on the world and the Germans already have dozens of scientists who are just as skilled and gifted enough to replace him, but none of them matches the genius and intelligence of Deathshead. Furthermore, his death also makes B.J. become the number one person wanted by the Nazi party.

During an Ubercommander assassination in The New Colossus, a soldier states that a new generation of elite Super Soldiers ( i.e. the Super Soldier body B.J.'s head was attached to ) were prevented from being developed due to the Kreisau Circle's attack; this means that while the assassination of Deathshead was described as a short lived victory, the scale of the projects prevented means that the assassination was beneficial in preventing the development of superweapons that could have been unbeatable for the Allied Resistance. However, it is debatable since the Nazis still have a large arsenal of nuclear weapons and the sun beam satellite to compensate for that.

In The Deep as Hans Hartmann explains Strasse is only into mechanics and science. Whereas Helga von Schabbs takes the opposite approach and is into the blood and mysticism. This is a nod to Deathshead's skepticism from the older RTCW series.

By 1980, the effects of his death still greatly lingering as the Nazis are unable to find and produce scientists at the same caliber as him to develop more advanced technology to maintain their grip on the world as well as reversing the effect of the Apocalypse caused by Hitler's doomsday device. This fact plus the loss of all their territories, minus Europe, puts the Nazis in the state of mass crumbling.

Personality & Traits[edit | edit source]

Deathshead, despite being a revolutionary genius in the fields of AI, biology and leadership, is known to be a ruthless, unethical and sadistic man with no sense of morality, which is reflected in the way he conducts his many experiments ( and often times the end results as well ). He claims that compassion is nothing more than pointless human instinct and should be ignored. He thoroughly enjoys experimenting with the human body, and doesn't care what happens to the subject, as long as they yield favorable results, though occasionally he would strive to preserve the parts he considered "vital" or "exquisite" such as the brain and eyes.

He also enjoys seeing his enemies suffering great losses, as well as writhing in pain from being tortured. Deathshead is as brilliant as he is wicked, with most of the technological advancements displayed by the Hitler regime in the series being attributable to him. Despite his prior defeats, Deathshead is known to never tolerate failure, especially from his own men.

Above all else, Deathshead is a hypocrite; while completely amoral and unwilling to care for the lives of his men and test subjects, he will still accuse Blazkowicz of trying to reduce the order that Deathshead has built to anarchy. He will also hypocritically berate and belittle Blazkowicz for any collateral damage he causes; most vividly seen in the battle between the two in which Blazkowicz destroys the two zeppelins providing Deathshead's shield.

Throughout his life, Deathshead has proven to be a very dedicated Nazi and researcher for the Third Reich. Though earlier evidences have suggested otherwise, Strasse is deeply loyal to the cause and Adolf Hitler, as evident in his many quotes and tributes found throughout The New Order. Like most Nazis, he believes in the superiority of the Aryan master race.

Even at extreme age, Deathshead's thirst for bloodshed and suffering has not changed, however, he seems more jovial when torturing his subjects and it seems his sadistic nature and brutalty has only worsened. Even in the face of death he is fearless and does not care if he lives or dies, only his legacy and the continuation of Hitler's New Order matters to him. Despite his sadistic and amoral nature, Deathshead has also proven to be somewhat of a coward when it comes to his troops or experiments failing him and has known to run from the opposing force before they can either capture or kill him. Like other Nazis, he has shown that he's not always a patient man when it comes to progress. Despite his cowardice, in the last moment of his life, he musters enough courage to commit suicide in an attempt to kill B.J. with a grenade. He is shown to have strong will and will achieve anything, no matter how horrifying to complete his life's mission.

Through their many encounters, it is apparent that Deathshead holds a lot of respect and fascination for his nemesis, especially for Blazkowicz's resolve and tenacity, though being a Nazi, he is not at all pleased when the American agent transgresses on his researches and operations. At his core, he is also arrogant and tends to underestimate his enemies, which in most cases has resulted in his downfall and B.J. getting the upper hand. However, it should be noted that Deathshead is the only Nazi that takes B.J. somewhat seriously while most of the Nazi Party underestimates him since he knows B.J. more than than anyone else in the Nazi Party and experienced many failures in his plans due to B.J.'s intervention.

Physical Appearance[edit | edit source]

Deathshead is short, very old and has no hair on his head. His face is scarred from having survived just about as many injuries as B.J., including a Zeppelin crash. Despite being over a century old, Deathshead seems to be fit enough to move on his own and perform precision surgery (sometimes on live subjects), something that may very well be due to his own biomedical achievements.

Below are the vitals purported to have been listed on Wolfenstein.com website at some point in an early version of the website (for The New Order before its release c. 2013). The bio itself does appear in the Art of Wolfensten: The New Order (as well as in the background card given for the character in the game) but without the vitals.

sex: Male
country (native): Germany
height: 167 cm
weight: 48 kg
age: 100
General Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse, a gifted and devoted researcher, is the head the SS Special Projects Division. Utterly devoid of any moral scruples, the General's experiments in new technology gave the Nazi war machine the edge it needed to win the war and force the world into submission. During the war, Deathshead almost perished in a zeppelin crash. This near death experience gave him a fresh outlook on life and he loves every minute of it.

Comparisons to earlier series[edit | edit source]

However, in the span of the games there was a change in his mannerisms. In RtCW, he seems to be well sophisticated and calculative, he was amoral when it comes to his work, but not exactly sadistic. For example, in the X-Labs cut scene, despite being informed of B.J. infiltrating the facility, he seemed to have a well placed plan in case an intruder would get in, even a form of escape which was a Bachem Ba317 "Kobra" Rocket Plane. In Wolfenstein 2009, he seemed more maniacal and and overconfident that his work will ultimately prevail and even getting "revenge" on B.J. At the epilogue after the credits, he digs himself out from the rubble of the Zeppelin and screams into the air, by this point, it's most likely that Strasse has lost all traces of sanity that he had left and would set up his more psychotic and 'damaged' mind-set. The state of his face in The New Order may also be from the result of the blimp crash as well. It could be seen as when the games progressed, so did his loss of sanity and social stability. In Wolfenstein: The New Order, his mannerisms are almost completely opposite from what his original ones in RtCW. Even his interactions with B.J. are different, most likely because at this point, he is beyond his once sophisticated self and in place is a sadistic mad scientist who wishes vengeance upon the O.S.A. agent.

Note: Of course some of the personality differences maybe chalked up to different portrayals by different voice actors. In some of the earlier games he had a deeper voice, and in the New Order his voice is somewhat more 'tenor' in tone (higher pitched).

Despite his division's collaborations with the SS Paranormal Division, Deathshead is a non-believer of the occult and the supernatural, asserting himself as a man of science.

It is implied that when he was a boy, he was shy and alone, yet very smart and creative. He wanted to create a robot to accompany and comfort him when frightened. This may have resulted in his future genius in the fields of Robotics AI Surgery Military and a high intelligence. His past childhood loneliness and ambition seem to mirror Hitler's.

Though based on previous versions of Wilhelm Strasse, the version in The New Order tends to be more 'overly-dramatic', and prone to wisecracking (though even in earlier versions he was known to have a few slick insults towards B.J.), and more likely to lose his cool in anger. Despite this Deathshead is in many ways more controlled and stable than many other Nazi leaders, such as Frau Engel and Helga von Schabbs whom both act more eratically. Deathshead is not temperamental but rather cold and ruthless.

Military Ranks[edit | edit source]

  • SS-Oberführer (Return to Castle Wolfenstein)
  • Oberstgruppenführer (Wolfenstein: The New Order)
  • Third Reich's Minister of Advanced Research (Wolfenstein: The New Order)
  • Head of the SS Special Projects Division (Wolfenstein: The New Order)

Quotes[edit | edit source]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Deathshead is voiced by former television star Dwight Schultz, best known for playing Captain H.M "Howling Mad" Murdock in the television series "The A-Team". This portrayal may have made Schultz impressionable to voice Deathshead, as both characters are portrayed as being somewhat psychotic.
  • Deathshead along with Irene Engel are currently the only recurring antagonists of the series (with exception of Hans Grösse).
  • Deathshead is the Nazi that knows B.J. better than anyone else in the Nazi Regime, due to their numerous encounters.
  • His name was most likely derived from Wilhelmstrasse, also written as "Wilhelmstraße", a major thoroughfare in the central Mitte and Kreuzberg districts of Berlin. Up until the Second World War, German governmental buildings were concentrated in Wilhelmstraße. Since 1939, the RSHA including the Gestapo and the SD was located in Wilhelmstraße, and the name became a metonym for the Gestapo/SD. In this way, Wilhelm Strasse's name basically is a direct reference to the SS itself.
  • It also seems that his name is a reference to the Strassers. One of them Gregor Strassers was murdered during the Night of the Long Knives. The other Otto Strasser made his own Fascist Party that withdrew and split away from the Nazi party.
  • The name "Deathshead" originated from the officer cap insignia of the SS. Shaped in the image of a skull and crossbones, the symbol was dubbed "Totenkopf", meaning "skull" or "death's head" in German.
    • Strasse himself prefers the German version over his Allied codename, due to it "not sounding right" in English.
  • Strasse has some similarities with the Marvel Comics and Captain America villain Red Skull. Both are high ranking Nazi officers, have a skull themed name/alias, develop advanced weapons, and (to vastly different degrees) have a skull like appearance.
  • Deathshead has had an interesting career in the Wolfenstein games over the years. In his first outing, Deathshead was an SS Oberführer while in the Wolfenstein 2009 he was promoted to a Oberstgruppenführer (General), albeit with the wrong collar tab insignia (his was that of an Obersturmführer). By the time of The New Order, Herr Deathshead has apparently been transferred from the SS to the Wehrmacht, as his uniform is that of a high ranking army staff officer. It is unknown why this is the case, as screenshots and trailers for the game show other characters (Frau Engel) with SS uniforms.
    • It can also be noted that while the soldiers at the start of the game are listed to be Wehrmacht, they all use the SS collar rune. This, combined with the uniforms worn by Deathshead and Frau Engel imply that the Wehrmacht has been absorbed into, or taken over by the SS.
  • In the French version of Return to Castle Wolfenstein and The New Order, Deathshead is known as 'Le Boucher' (The Butcher) although his real name, Wilhelm, remains the same.
  • Deathshead is almost always seen wearing his signature monocle, though it only has a brief appearance in The New Order, being featured only on some of his paintings and during the short period of time where he is about to vivisect Private Wyatt/Fergus Reid. This indicates it may be used as would be a pair of reading glasses, to aid Strasse's vision when working with things at a close range.
  • In the epilogue scene of the previous part: Wolfenstein (2009), one can clearly see that he survived the airship crash physically undamaged. Therefore, it is unknown where his many scars and the missing part of his ear come from. It could well be that an experiment led to it, or Deathshead even became a witness to the Global Nuclear War, by which the Nazis conquered the world and was too close to an atomic explosion, which could explain the burns. But the more likely it is that the developers simply changed his appearance without a major reason because such an appearance fits better to a villain, and more reminding of a real skull than Deathshead's look in Wolfenstein. Or its simply that they decided to retcon the crash making it worse for him than it had been in the game.
  • It is likely simply a retcon or reimaginning to his character, as even his personality appears to have gotten an update as he plays the part more of a wisecracking supervillain in The New Order, more 'insane'. Compared to his personality in the previous games. However, the scream of anger he makes at the end of Wolfenstein maybe the start of his 'instability'.
  • Deathshead is one of the few elements brought over from the previous Wolfenstein series in the MachineGames reboot series, however most of the events of that game is not acknowledged (in particular the supernatural aspects). Deathshead is primarily based on the version from RTCW (in which he is a skeptic when it comes to the paranormal), and X-Labs events which are referenced directly tough placed chronologically later in the timeline (and the supernatural aspects are ignored from that game).
  • In The New Order, general Deathshead lacks his classic monocle which he had in previous designs. It still appears on his painting in his compound in 1946.
  • Apart from conventional imagery, Deathshead is observed using an insignia consisting of two snakes coiled like a DNA-string on his creations and on his Commando units. The symbol can be observed even on 1946 Panzerhunds, indicating Strasse has been aware of the structure of the DNA helix since the 1940's.
  • Deathshead wears a mechanic/surgeouns overall over his uniform, implying that he spends more time creating war machines and conducting experiments than he does actually leading troops, as does he spend most his time in the labs of his compound.
  • Deathshead does not seem to have aged at all since Blazkowicz last encountered him in 1946. It is likely that he has developed scientific means of maintaining his health and/or slowing his own aging process.
  • During his final battle, Deathshead yells "Die, Allied schweinehund!" at Blazkowicz. This is a throwback to Mecha Hitler in Wolfenstein 3D, who used the same quote and fought Blazkowicz in a quad-chaingunned power armor. Curiously, this very armor is mentioned in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus by Hitler himself as having been given to him as a gift from Deathshead.
  • Deathshead appears to have become a leading Nazi figure since their victory in the war due to the fact he is personally involved in many major projects (Both civilian and military) such as the London Nautica and the Lunar Base.
  • Deathshead is featured in all of The New Order's loading screens.
  • During Chapter 13, "Lunar Base", as the player exits the space shuttle into the arrivals lobby, an audio speech by Deathshead can be heard where he says that he is the Minister of Advanced Research.
  • According to his dialogue, he preferred to dissect Wyatt over Fergus, but will go with the latter with an equal level of glee if chosen by Blazkowicz.
  • His calm demeanour, sadism, obsession with vivisecting and blue eyes as well as gouging them out might be a reference to the infamous SS researcher Josef Mengele.
  • He seems slightly​ similar to The Major from Hellsing. Both men being Nazis but having their own agendas, both having a strong will, both being extremely intelligent, ruthless, calm and seeing everyone under their authority as pawns. They both also seem to be feared by other Nazis as well as working on paranormal projects and intent on creating an army of super soldiers.
  • He is also slightly similar to Rotwang the inventer the Main Antagonist of the 1927 film Metropolis. He like Rotwang is a mad evil German Scientist who believes that the Machine men are the future as well as making his creations perform evil tasks. Him calling his prototype robot (Fergus/Wyatt) "Machine Man" may be a possible reference or nod to this. He also claims earlier on that he would unleash his Machine Men.
  • Deathshead and Frau Engel are the same height.
  • In Deathshead's image his Eyes are blue, but in game they are darker, closer to green.
  • Curiously, the grenade used by Deathshead to destroy both himself and Blazkowicz is pineapple-shaped, rather than the German stick-grenade "potato-masher" ones seen throughout the game.
  • In Deathshead's image his collar insignia is the rank of a Untersturmführer (Second Lieutenant) even though his confirmed rank is a Oberstgruppenführer (General).
  • The character of Deathshead appears loosely based on the real SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Kammler who held a very similar position to Strauss, which included both concentration camps and secret weapon development projects. He was given the nickname "Dr. Evil" by the media.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Wolfenstein: The New Order[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20140423090556/http://gamebusters.info/activision-did-a-crap-job-with-wolfenstein-2009-remake-says-bethesda-staff-member/ [2]
  2. https://www.pcworld.com/article/2920298/wolfenstein-the-old-blood-review-more-old-school-than-new-order.html
  3. Europe, 1946. World War II rages across Europe. Where once the Allies pressed advantage, the Nazi forces have turned the tide in dramatic fashion behind the technologically advanced war machine of General Wilhelm Strasse -- Deathshead. When a final Allied assault on Deathshead's compound fails, the Allies’ greatest hope falls with it.

    General Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse, a gifted and devoted researcher, is head of the SS Special Projects Division. Utterly devoid of any moral scruples, the General's experiments in new technology gave the Nazi war machine the edge it needed to win the war and force the world into submission. During the war, Deathshead almost perished in a zepplin crash. This near death experience gave him a fresh outlook on life and he loves every minute of it.

  4. "Seen your type before back in Deathhead's X-Labs."
  5. "Age thirty-two. Swam the cesspools beneath Deathshead's X-Labs. But it wasn't as dirty as this."
  6. Should have killed that man long ago.
  7. General Deathshead is nearer to us now than he has been in years.
  8. So long since I've practiced my English. It's a dying tongue.
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